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Vuelta a Espana

“A solid group of climbers for a top ten in Madrid”

For the second time in its history, Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux will participate at the Tour of Spain (2.UWT). The third Grand Tour of the season will start on Friday August 19th in Utrecht (The Netherlands) and head to the finish in Madrid on September 11th.

The World Team experienced a red dream in its first participation last year, thanks to the stage win of Rein Taaramäe on top of the Picón Blanco. The team then defended the red leader’s jersey of Taaramäe (2 days) and later Eiking (7 days) during almost half of the event.


The Netherlands welcome the first three stages of this 77th edition, with a team time trial as opening stage followed by two entirely flat stages. The peloton will then travel to the Basque Country for three hilly stages towards Laguardia, Bilbao and the climb San Miguel de Aguayo, which welcomes the first uphill finish (12.5km at 6,6%).

The first week ends with two other uphill finishes in Asturia: Colláu Fancuaya (10.3 km at 7.8%) on day eight and Les Praeres de Nava (3.8 km at 13%) the next day. After the rest day, the only individual time trial of this edition follows the direction of Alicante on an entirely flat course of 31 kilometer.

The finish in Cabo de Gata at the end of the eleventh stage is the first opportunity for sprinters on Iberian soil, before a finish on top of Peñas Blancas (19.8 km at 6.4%) the next day. The final rest day is preceded by two mountain top finishes in Andalusia, respectively the Sierra de la Pandera and Sierra Nevada (2500 meter) on day fourteen and fifteen.

The final straight towards Madrid contains two mountain top finishes on Monasterio de Tentudía (9.3km at 5.1%) and Alto de Piornal (13.3km at 5.6%) on day seventeen and eighteen. These are followed by a short stage around Talavera de la Reina, with a double passage on Puerto del Piélago (9km at 5.9%), a tough day in the Sierra de Guadarrama leading to the Puerto de Navacerrada (1850 meter) and the closing stage in the Spanish capital.

The selection under the direction of Pieter Vanspeybrouck, Valerio Piva and Jean-Marc Rossignon contains three riders who finished in the top ten of a Grand Tour this season. Louis Meintjes, the eight of the Tour de France GC, returns to La Vuelta for an eighth participation (10th in 2015, 12th in 2017). The South-African climber was provisionally in the top ten of last year’s Tour of Spain, until he was forced to abandon following a crash in the penultimate stage.

He will be accompanied by Jan Hirt and Domenico Pozzovivo, who finished sixth and eight in the Tour of Italy in May. The Czech stage winner in the latest Giro will line up for his tenth Grand Tour. The Italian climber already finished in the top ten (6th in 2013) and will start the 23rd Grand Tour of his career. 

Estonian rider Rein Taaramäe returns to the race in which he became the first rider of the team to wear a leader’s jersey in a Grand Tour thanks to his stage win on Picon Blanco, ten years after his succes in Lagos de Somiedo. Belgian rider Jan Bakelants, who finished seventeenth of the Vuelta twice, is the other Grand Tour stage winner in the selection. 

Sprinter Gerben Thijssen and his lead out Boy Van Poppel will participate in the Vuelta for the second time. Thijssen showed himself in 2020 by sprinting to second and fifth place in flat stages. The first stages on home soil are even more special for van Poppel, who will pass only a couple of kilometers from home in the third stage. The sprint train is completed by the Dane Julius Johansen, who will make his Grand Tour debut.

« The top 10 in the GC of the Tour and the Giro from Louis Meintjes, Jan Hirt and Domenico Pozzovivo reinforced our initial plans to send a solid group of climbers to this third and last Grand Tour of the season. In this way, we can increase our tactical choices in order to obtain a top ten in Madrid. We can refine our strategy after the expected chaos in the Netherlands and the explosive stages in the Basque Country. » « Our sprinter Gerben Thijssen has made several steps forward this season. His brilliant victory in the recent Tour de Pologne shows that he's ready to sprint for stage victories in the flat stages. He can rely on the support of Julius Johansen and Boy van Poppel, two fixed teammates in his sprint train, who led him to the win in Poland. » « I'm convinced about our capabilities to win on all terrains. With Jan Bakelants and Rein Taaramäe we also have strong assets for the transition stages and in long breakaways. Taaramäe showed it in the Giro on the Etna and Bakelants did the same in the Dauphiné. »

« I was quite emotional on the Champs-Elysées last month. I worked so hard to finish in the top ten of a Grand Tour and after five years I finally managed to do it again. I was so close in the Vuelta last year, until a crash two days before the end forced me to abandon. This made my result in the Tour even more special. I think I recovered well now and I feel ready for a fifth succession of the Tour and the Vuelta. This combination led to good results in the past and also last season my feeling was good in the Vuelta, which gives me confidence. We came here with a strong team of climbers, offering us several options in the mountains. There will often be stages which suit us and in which we can attack. Concerning myself, my position in the provisional classification will determine whether I'll race as aggressively as in the Tour de France or not. No matter what, I'll do everything I can to achieve the best possible result in Paris. »

« Last year I grabbed a rare opportunity to win a stage and wear the leader's jersey in a Grand Tour. For a rider like me, who has to attack, miracles are needed to enable you to realize the double. The GC leaders need to give you freedom in the beginning of the event, when the time gaps are still bridgeable. In this Vuelta there are also many opportunities for early breakaways to fight for stage wins. I'll take it day by day, because I can't predict on which days I'll have the best legs, when the GC riders want to fight for the stage win or when it is better to accompany our climbers Jan Hirt, Louis Meintjes and Domenico Pozzovivo. I hope that I can show myself at least one time in a nice breakaway in addition to my work for our GC leaders, just like I've done in the Vuelta last year or in the Giro in May. I prepared myself for hundred percent, I want to get the maximum out of myself to play an important role alongside them. »

« I made a nice progression since my arrival in Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert and I feel ambitious at the start of my second Grand Tour. My victory in the Tour de Pologne showed that I have the capabilities to rival with sprinters of the same caliber as the riders who are present here in this Vuelta. My goal is to sprint for the podium in the flat stages and I even dare to dream of a victory. I have a lot of confidence in my teammates Julius Johansen and Boy van Poppel. I really trust them in the final kilometers. In each of the races we've done together this season, they gave 200% to bring me to the best possible position for the sprint. In this Vuelta this will probably be in the slipstream of a rider like Tim Merlier, who's the main favorite for the sprint stages in my opinion. I'm happy that the team time trial is immediately followed by two fantastic opportunities for sprinters. I really want to continue achieving results to reward the team for all chances they gave me and for the confidence they have in me. »

« The Grand Départ of this Vuelta in the Netherlands is special for me as I was born in Utrecht. My dearest family and friends will be there and on Sunday we will pass 5 kilometer from my house in Poppel. This is of course a great factor of motivation. This is my eight Grand Tour already and each time I was a lead out rider. Together with our sprinter Gerben Thijssen we started the preparation for this Vuelta last winter. Since then we built a relationship of trust, we grew as a team and we acquired a series of good results and two victories. Julius Johansen also played an important role in the success of our sprint train. Thanks to his experience on the track he can do several long pulls after each other in the final. In this way, I need to take less risks to stay in the front and I can save more energy to lead Gerben to the sprint in the final 1000 meter. I think it's just the start of our cooperation, I hope it can lead us to the podium during this Vuelta or maybe even to the victory. »


General Classification


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